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What’s given by the right hand is taken by the left…

World over the floor space index (FSI), has been kept low. This has resulted in a vertical spread of cities. With rapid urbanisation, population density has increased. Thus, there is an inclination to give higher FSI for construction in cities. The compact nature would help the commuter to travel shorter distances. In turn, the price of housing could come down.” said S Krishnan, TN Principal Secretary in-charge of Housing and Urban Development.

Last year the government came out with increases in the FSI. Krishnan believes this increase would benefit the land developer, the landowner and the buyer. New housing policy is on the anvil and is expected to be announced soon. One hopes for the policy providing for quantum growth in the housing stock.

When necessities become luxuries Hopefully The new policy will end the slow growth in the housing stock. The NDA I government (1999-2004), reduced interest on housing loans to 7.5 per cent per annum. Land prices were modest and construction costs low. Thus, a flat could be bought @ Rs 800 per sq.ft. The EMI for a 700 sq.ft flat, even taking a 100 per cent loan over 20 years, worked out to around Rs 4200 per month. It is just about the same as the cost of renting then a 700 sq.ft flat. This made housing affordable by the middle class. Today at around Rs 11,000/sq.ft, the same house will cost around Rs 80 lakh. The EMI works out to Rs 70,000. The rental on such a house is less than a third.

Even while the government talks of providing housing for all with focus on the weaker and poorer sections, the middle class is left to fend for self. There is thus the need for a bold policy to bring down costs through multi-pronged policy
measures.

Go for hi-rise buildings

Chief among these is to encourage vertical growth. Multi-storeyed buildings are the norm in most metros across the world. This is particularly true of dense metros like Singapore and Kuala Lampur in Asia. Chennai also should go for high rise buildings in large numbers. Manufacturers of construction materials should be enabled to offer building materials at much lower prices by tweaking the tax system. For instance, there is no justification for pricing cement at Rs 400 plus per bag in Tamil Nadu by cement cartels even while the product is offered as much less price in other states. Newer techniques like Rapidwall Construction using glass fibre reinforced gypsum (GFRG) perfected by IIT-Madras for speedy multi-storeyed constructions could be encouraged. The focus should be on the cost and speed of construction.

Regulation of the huge cost increases of basic construction materials like cement and steel which have contributed to a sympathetic rise in the price of every other material like sand, bricks, sanitaryware, electric fittings… need to be made and corrected. With mass housing, the volume of demand for these would skyrocket. And such volumes should help in lowering construction costs.

There is a lacuna in the recent relaxation of FSI from 1.5 to 2 and 2.5 for special buildings. Take an 8000 sq.ft building constructed over ground plus three floors. The relaxed rule permits expansion of building space from the old 12,000 sq.ft to 20,000 sq.ft. But the stipulation on providing for extra parking space is impractical. The small size of the plot will not provide for constructing underground space for the stipulated number of cars. The liberal relaxation would bring no benefit for existing buildings as they cannot find space for an additional 70 cent of cars.

Encourage public transportation

True there is the explosive growth in the number of cars on the road that are in dire need of parking space. The landowner didn’t cause this and should not be punished! The state provided additional FSI for land in the vicinity of the mass rapid transit system (MRTS) to encourage commuting by train. Such a facility should be extended to land near the Metro Rail. Imagine the incongruous nature of more than 55 lakh vehicles on Chennai roads for a population of around 60 lakh! With the rapid construction of the new metro lines planned, a reverse movement towards use of public transportation should happen! This needs to be encouraged by policy changes. – SV

Scuba Diving
The diving course that buoyed up my confidence and spirits

Here is a report from a ten-year-old from the Philippines on getting certified for PADI Open Water Diving. Look at the possibility: facilitating thousands of school children in Chennai to learn swimming at the city’s long beaches at experts’ hands, taking care of safety! And the prospects for a few winners in national and international sports meet! And making efforts to give some attention to sports other than cricket!

Here is a report from a ten-year-old from the Philippines on getting certified for PADI Open Water Diving. Look at the possibility: facilitating thousands of school children in Chennai to learn swimming at the city’s long beaches at experts’ hands, taking care of safety! And the prospects for a few winners in national and international sports meet! And making efforts to give some attention to sports other than cricket!

 

 

 

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